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A Quick Guide to the Landscapes of Snowdonia

Published on 8 Dec 2021 by Amy Bowers

There are few places on earth as stunningly diverse and beautiful as Snowdonia. Check out our guide to some of the landscapes we love most about this beautiful part of North Wales.

Known as Eryri (pronounced Eh-ruh-ree) in Welsh, the region had long been thought to get its Welsh name from the Welsh word for eagle – eryr – but is now believed to originate from the Latin oriri, meaning to rise. 

The etymology makes perfect sense: the national park in North Wales is home to some of Britain’s most dramatic mountain landscapes, many of which have barely changed for thousands of years. It’s the ideal holiday location for anyone who takes pleasure in the beauty, exuberance and boundless potential of the Great Outdoors. 

The mountainous panorama is a powerful mood enhancer. Like stars in the night sky (and the lack of light pollution makes Snowdonia a great place to gaze at stars) it is both enrapturing and soothing. It’s hard to feel encumbered by life when contemplating the vast and beautiful mystery of space and time.

The Snowdonia landscape has been 4,600 million years in the making. Incredible to imagine when you’re 3,500ft up on a mountain peak and looking out to the far-below Irish Sea, but the rocks you walk on were born out of the oceans. Look at them closely and you might be lucky enough to spot some fossil shell fragments.

The terrain as we know it was moulded and refined by the last Ice Age, 18,000 years ago. The glaciers that covered North Wales carved out great hollows in the mountains known as ‘cwms’ or ‘corries’. These dramatic hollows are characterised by Snowdonia’s trademark knife-edge ridges, which can make for some exhilarating and challenging climbing. The north ridge of Tryfan is a great example, and the trek – which requires a good head for heights – is an understandable favourite of visitors to the region. 

But you’d be wrong to think that Snowdonia is all about the mountains. The region may well take its name from the highest peak south of Hadrian’s Wall (known in Welsh as Yr Wyddfa – pronounced Uhr-with-va) but as well as the jagged mountain tops, knife-edge passes and windswept uplands you’ll find a region that’s packed full of sheltered wooded valleys, estuaries, as well as some unique plant life and beautiful sandy beaches.

From the grassy whalebacks of the Carneddau Mountains to the verdant valley scenery of the River Glaslyn – a bountiful draw for serious fishermen – and the sweeping golden sands of Conwy Bay, this is a rich and varied landscape. It’s one which produces lush plant life: Snowdonia is home to the glorious world-famous botanical gardens at Bodnant which sit on the edge of the Conwy River and have the most spectacular views across the mountains.

Snowdonia is also home to the UK’s biggest region of lakes outside the Lake District, and there are some stunning lakesides to explore. Llyn (lake) Crafnant, near Betws y Coed lies in a magnificently peaceful and handsome valley where the dense Gwydyr Forest Park meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau Mountains. It‘s often cited as being one of the most beautiful panoramas in North Wales – and we can vouch for that! Llyn Padarn has to be a close contender for the same title though: it nestles below the great crags of Snowdon and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), partly because of the ancient sessile oak woodlands which blanket the steep slopes overlooking the lake. It’s a particularly wonderful place to visit in early autumn when the woodlands light up the mountain landscape with the most spectacular shades of red, orange and gold.

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